Network design for 24 outbuildings? (Best protocol, etc)


(Albert Kleyn) #1

Folks Newbie here, so apologies if this has already been discussed in the past?

Am running a large animal sanctuary which has 24 individual buildings. Buildings are irregularly spaced apart, some are within 5 feet of each other, others could be more. All buildings do have main power. IF I wanted to “Mesh” these buildings together, back to the Samsung Hub, we are talking about 100-300 feet distance from the furthest sensor back to the hub. Would a ZigBee, or Zwave plus network, as implemented in the smartthings hub, be able to cope with this??? … say… having 24 individual sensors relaying data via each other back to the Hub. I can’t move the hub to be more central as this would involve a lot of wire running back to the Router.

I am aware that “meshing” WiFi could be another approach, but again… I am loath to run extra cables unless I absolutely have to.
The sensors will only be used to relay temperature data and depending on other matters, might be used to trigger smart outlet sockets which could turn the electric heaters on or off.

Would this type of “meshing” have bandwidth and delay implications, as each sensor (or plug) would most likely be talking to its next-door neighbour, who in turn talks to his neighbour, until such time that the signal finally has made it back to the Hub ???
Fortunately… I am in a low RFI interference environment as we are located in the boondocks.-

Suggestions and advice gratefully received.
Albert


#2

Sounds like a very exciting project! :sunglasses:

First of all, personally I would never run this kind of operation on smartthings assuming that the health of the animals might be affected. It’s just not reliable enough. In fact, the official product usage guidelines warn about the same thing:

Data accuracy and consistency from SmartThings sensors, including those provided by SmartThings directly, resold by SmartThings, or supported by SmartThings, is not guaranteed. Therefore, you should not rely on that data for any use that impacts health, safety, security, property or financial interests. For example, because temperature readings may vary significantly from reading to reading on an individual device, between devices, or over time, those readings should not be used to control heating and cooling in environments where food spoilage, health risks, or damage to physical goods could occur.

Smartthings has had at least one outage each of the last 20 months except for one, and more than one outage in some months. Again, speaking just for myself, I wouldn’t take the risk.

OK, with that out-of-the-way, as far as protocols go, your best bet is probably going to be zigbee, that’s what most commercial operations, including a number of dairies, use. Although Z wave plus has a longer range per hop, the signals do not travel as well through rain or snow, and you are limited to four total hops and 232 total devices. In contrast, zigbee allows four 15 hops into the hub and 15 hops out and can handle thousands of devices. It is the usual choice for large sensornets. But again, even if you choose zigbee, I personally would not use smartthings because of the reliability issues.

So I won’t go into a lot of the other potential technical issues right now. I suggest you start investigating monitoring packages for farms which will probably match up to your needs pretty closely and are likely to end up as much less expensive as well as more reliable in the long run.


(Albert Kleyn) #3

JDR, THANK YOU, The best thing I ever did was join this forum. In a strange way, you are echoing exactly my own thoughts. I have one critical location where we have animals in recovery and I would NEVER trust any internet controlled device to have control in there. The heating in there is controlled via a simple electronic thermostat, switching a 40 amp solid state relay and is able to keep the temp in that porta cabin to within 1 degree C via its 2 kW heater.

Its great to get this background stuff on the Zwave and ZigBee networks. I’ve so little time to keep up-to-date… a 100 hr week, UNPAID at 73 years old is tough and it’s a 52 week a year venture.
As I live in the sanctuary… I’ve only dabbled in home automation. A NEST Gen 2, nest protect and Phillips Hue have made my life a dammed lot easier, I ended up in hospital 2 years ago on Christmas day !!! and the heating was on a timer. No fun… and things quickly got out of hand.
When I got home again, I wired the NEST stat in and by God… I never ever regretted the money spend. From there on… Philips came on board and last week SmartThings arrived. Oh…I also have a simple Sonoff TH16 but it is only monitoring temp and humidity in another enclosure and does not control anything.

Yes… you are dead right… this technology cannot be trusted to do what I want and so I will refrain from taking this further… other that perhaps just sticking in a few more temp sensors so I can see if the girls have switched the heaters on or off. Not even M’soft or Google can guarantee 24/7/365 up time so we can’t expect Sonoff to do this for 10 dollars, euros or pounds… or whatever. But… people want their cake and eat it… for free.

Thanks again JDR… so very very helpful… I had not seen those Samsung warnings and they are dead right… it could lead to a catastrophe in no time.

For the hell of it… one day I might just see how far I can reach? Oh… HOW do I know if a sensor is using EITHER ZigBee, or Zwave? Does the Hub decide that, based on what the sensor electronics have on board? The stuff in the starter kit, any idea if that is Zwave plus or ZigBee ??
Albert


#4

Each sensor should have an FCC label on it to indicate the frequency, plus usually A third-party logo to say whether it is Z wave or zigbee or Bluetooth or whatever. (Zwave and zigbee operate on very different frequencies.) very few devices other than hubs use more than one protocol, and I don’t know of any sensors that do.

The items in the starter kit are all zigbee, using the zigbee home automation profile, (ZHA 1.2), which is what smartthings uses. That has a range of around 40 feet per hop, although as mentioned you could get up to 30 hops depending on the replacement. (we should also note here that usually battery operated devices do not repeat for other devices, as that uses too much battery life. Only the mains powered Devices typically repeat.)

Another word about profiles:

The “zigbee pro” profile is commonly used for outdoor sensornets and can get much longer range, even a couple of kilometers, but may require licensing depending on where you live.

And more about mesh and range:


#5

One of the most stable products in my Smart Home is Nest. I have Thermostats, Protects, and many indoor and outdoor cameras and in a little over a year, not one single outage that has impacted my environment. Best investment for my home ever!

The fact that your Nest environment is standalone and also the ability to integrate / automate between the two and the fact that you can do scheduling individually in both apps, I think you made a very wise decision in products that you have chosen, but I’m biased :slight_smile:

I share the same sentiments as JD when it comes to automating anything with SmartThings where the well-being of the animals comes into play (turning on / off fans and heaters, automatic automated feeders / water dispensers, etc). The human element is key to a sanctuary no matter what automated conveniences are added.

I’m not sure of your budget or what you plan on investing, but I would (when it comes to where the animals are housed anyway) invest in cameras only so that you always have a visual of or within your buildings and stay completely away from automating anything except non lefe dependent functions. I know if you go with Nest cameras that’s going to be an investment, but something that you could do is allow people to view the animals in the sanctuary or record online tours that people can go on and potentially create another revenue stream for maintaining the sanctuary and get some sort of retirn on the investment. Just throwing out some ideas for you.

I personally wouldn’t invest in ST for any automation for the sanctuary even if it works for a budget. It’s great for what it does when it’s working, but to be reliant on it except for convenience, I don’t think it’s worth the investment into a project like yours. :slight_smile:


(Albert Kleyn) #6

Folks… my God… this forum is like the oracle of Delphi… Now, I only have to find time to do some hard reading, but these post have been eye-openers for me. THANK YOU !!!. BTW… Hub only bought last week so I presume it is V2, but will check. Was totally unaware that this stuff is used on farms. As to outages… we are on overhead 10KV wires with our own 10K to 230 Xformer… so outages are well know here. I’ve a small back up gennie here… but it is way to small to cope with our electrical load. We’ve 120 animals here, cats and dogs and look after wildlife too, in case anyone wonders. Albert.


#7

Something this reminds me of is a trip I made to Howling Acres Wolf Sanctuary many years ago.

They had many wolves and one “Dakota” took to me and we were speaking back and forth between howling. :joy:

If they had Nest back then, I could have interacted with the wolves with the cameras and the two way audio.

If I had an unlimited budget, LMAO I would have two way video so that the animals could not only hear me, but see me too.

I have a friend on the east coast where they stable 6 customers horses and they were looking at putting a camera with two way audio in each stable so that customers could check on their horses without having to call or show up onsite.

I think you could get really creative and figure out a revenue stream that people would pay for that allows you to recoup a little back to pay for food, medical, upkeep, etc… Most sanctuaries don’t last because more money goes out than ever comes in. :slight_smile:


#8

SmartThings itself isn’t much used on farms, and “home automation” isn’t typically used on farms, but many farms have used technology of varying kinds for decades longer than individual homes have. It just makes sense, not just in terms of money but in terms of labor saving. Just research “small farm technology” and you should find a number of ideas. It’s usually called “Ag–Tech” rather than “smart farms” but there are a lot of options and sensors are almost always at the heart of it.


(Albert Kleyn) #9

WB70, U are so right, but you will be delighted to know I have 17 ( SEVENTEEN) CCTV cams here, running 24/7. Funny you mention being biased, although I do not think you are. For well over two years Nest has performed faultlessly here, not one single problem ever. Philips Hue is so DAMMED expensive, but reliable, I have a handful of bulbs, motion sensor, hub and dimmer, again an absolute delight… but I have to say the Hue App is behind the times and I am running ALL4HUE from the android app store.

Sonoff had a lot of outages over the Chinese new year… guess it was party time over there ? . But again… dirt cheap and it only Monitors temp ,and humidity but does not control anything.

Another reason for me to be very weary of automation is that my broadband comes from a 10Km away mast on a remote hilltop… in my few years left on this planet… no fibre here, for sure for sure, only a few houses in a few miles… why bother? This is Ireland after all. One decent lightning strike and broadband is gone.

Anyway… have no fear… humans may be outdated, but they can still turn things on and off and yes, JDR and you are dead right… we cannot be beaten in that respect… we work without power or internet and don’t celebrate New year here.
The charity I co-founded 17 Years ago, has over 12000 saved animals to its credit and of that I am immensely proud, especially as we run a strict veterinary guided non-euthanasia policy here.

CCTV is an absolute lifesaver for us. I have Mr. Goody, ( Sweet cat) who had a full rear leg amputation last week under 24/7 observation via AMCREST unit… excellent little cam and allows me to zoom in on him whenever I want.

Ok folks, back to the grindstone…evening check run on the way. THANK YOU BOTH so very very much. I am deeply grateful a nd learned a lot from your answers.
Albert


(Albert Kleyn) #10

DEAD DEAD RIGHT… we are on the verge of going under WB… it would be an utterly sad day if that were to happen. Thanks for the links… wish God put 36 hrs in a day. 24 isn’t enough. Unrelated… my brother, a US citizen studied under the GI Bill of rights !!! That should tell you how ancient I am !<Smile.


#11

This is what became of Howling Acres:

Found a story about how Dakota made her way there as well:

Think some of those guys made their way over to ST. Francis Wolf Sanctuary at some point in their lives.

Wish you the best and hope you keep the doors open for a long time to come. :slight_smile: